Best Practices: How to use twitter to promote your automotive business?

The perfect profile

Do not underestimate the importance of your Twitter profile. This is the first area your followers will see and first impressions, as you are aware, are very important. Make your profile as useful as possible. If you are a car dealer, say what type of dealers you are (i.e. used, new, franchised, supermarket etc.), what cars you deal with and the location(s) where you are based. Don’t forget your profile picture – you could upload an image of your dealership site.

Always include a link to your dealership’s website or blog within your profile, as people usually like to find more about you before they decide to follow you on Twitter. Finally, don’t forget your Twitter background. A creative and carefully chosen picture can make a real impact on users and increase your followers. Your background picture can also mention your contact details, websites, address etc.

Tempting tweets

Make sure your tweets engage your users. Write impactful headings and use well-crafted language to share stories, car deals, new or discounted cars. Always try to write tweets that will encourage your followers to visit you and find out more about what you do.

Think visually – a picture is worth a thousand words. Share good quality photos of your cars, premises and other relevant content. Pictures, especially those that come with strong headings, will increase your chances of adding more followers and generating more traffic to your main website. Not every tweet needs to be visual, but work out ways to incorporate images into your tweeting habits.

For your information:

  • Tweets with images received 89% more favourites than those without.
  • Tweets with images received 18% more clicks.
  • Tweets with images received 150% more re-tweets.

It’s not just about me, me, me

It’s not about you, but about your customers. Don’t bombard users with classified ads, or tweets only related to your business. Share other content too, that will encourage people to follow you. Don’t be afraid of sharing external content, stories and pictures that you think might interest your users. Find out what they want and give it to them. It’s all about keeping your audience interested in what you have to say, rather than incessant, aggressive self promotion.

Helpful hashtags

#hashtag works the same way on Twitter as a keyword does for SEO. Hashtags are a powerful way to direct your tweets to people looking for that topic. Users use hashtags to find content of their choice. Just as in SEO, you should define the most relevant hashtags to your business and then use them often to build up your authority and brand under those hashtags.

For example, a car dealer might like to use #usedcars, #cardealer or even use car makes and models, depending on which cars you are dealing with.

Stay in touch

Keep your Twitter account active and use it regularly. Twitter is all about instant and constant communication. If you’re not tweeting often enough, chances are you won’t find many followers or you won’t be able to retain those you do have for long. You can use a number of tools to automate your tweets and then combine this approach with a few manual ones to ensure you’re supplying regular updates, while retaining the person touch.

Build it and they will come

Don’t forget to grow your Twitter followers – don’t rest on your laurels. You can continue to build your Twitter followers in many ways, including the following:

  • Actively follow local Twitter users, charities, events and companies, as they are all potential car buyers and customers. More often than not, they will follow you back. But don’t take it too personally if they don t, or if they un-follow you later on. That’s just a fact of Twitter life.
  • Re-tweet other people’s stories that you think might be useful for your own audience.
  • Ask people to follow you.
  • Promote your social media links on your website, print, email signatures and business cards.
  • Add stickers related to your social media on your used cars.
  • Create key rings and other marketing give-aways with your social media links on.

Appreciate your audience

Target your audience. When you write tweets, or follow other people, make sure you always choose relevant messages and audiences that will add value to your business. Never take support on Twitter for granted. Acknowledge even the smallest added value that someone brings your business and thank people for following or re-tweeting you – manners cost nothing, after all. Use @mentions when tweeting their content to help them notice you in their stream. In effect, it’s all about building relationships.

Having fun with Twitter will help you engage with your audience further. Thanking people, sharing their content, having conversations with them and just having fun could lead you down unexpected routes. Always try to add value – Twitter is all about giving, sharing and participating. Answer people’s queries and questions too, to help your name rise further in their estimation.

Advanced search

One of Twitter’s highly under-estimated features is its advanced search tool. Use this to discover your local twitter community, or to catch potential customers looking to buy or sell cars in real time. If you make advanced search tool your friend, and make sure you use it on a daily basis, you will be surprised and amazed by the results.

Ford currently occupies the enviable position of being the UK’s biggest car and commercial vehicle brand. Such a valuable reputation must be carefully protected and developed, especially in the social media savvy world of 2014. In a recent article in The Guardian, Scott Monty, Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company shared some of the company’s social media secrets.

1. Spread the word through other people

Online marketing is about engaging the communities who might be interested in your product or offering. Get them on your side and you have powerful allies who will tell your story for you. Ford tested this theory in 2009 when it gave one hundred regular social media users a Ford Fiesta for six months. In return, they had to create and upload a themed video to social media sites to create  a ‘buzz’ about the car.

Video content was uploaded unedited and unfiltered – a real life, real time review of the car by unbiased people who would be most likely to use it. Ford felt confident enough in their product to allow ‘real people’ to present it online. It worked. The campaign received around 132,000 requests for more information, of which 82% were new to Ford.

2. Commit to social media – don’t use it for ‘one-offs’

Ford knows the power of sticking around on social media sites to extend the conversation and build up a following. They created their Social hub as a place for consumers to receive information, interact with other users and leave their own feedback and suggestions. Ford committed to reading the suggestions, entering the conversation and acting on any suitable ideas.

As it turned out, around 40% of all user-submitted ideas were already in the pipeline at Ford. Ford developed a ‘badge’ system for users to share online badges on their own blogs and social media networks, that linked directly to Ford’s website and social media outlets. This enabled the firm to target potential customers direct and deliver only the most relevant, tailored content to them, based on the type of badges selected.

3. Involving paid, owned and earned media increases impact

In 2010, Ford launched its new Explorer model. This was done in an innovative way, using Facebook as the main media outlet to drip feed videos, news snippets and interviews with the design team. The chief engineer was also involved, presenting virtual behind-the-scenes ‘tours’ to interested fans via Facebook.

This activity was backed up simultaneously with paid for targeted digital ads and planned events around the country. The Ford marketing team was instructed to integrate all their paid and earned media activity with the Facebook campaign. results were impressive with 100 million impressions on Facebook recorded on the day of the launch, 4400 million browser impressions and an overall reach of 66 million Americans.

4. Use distinct personalities to engage an audience online

According to Monty, the Ford Focus was starting to lose impact in the automotive sector as people turned to its competitors. In 2011, the marketing team made a concerted effort to draw interest back. They came up with a novelty spokesperson in the guise of an orange sock puppet named Doug. Along with his sidekick John, Doug fronted a series of successful videos that were posted online, aimed at males in their 20s and extolling the virtues of the Ford Focus.

The approach was a success. The videos were both entertaining and engaging and, above all, they spoke the customers’ own language. An astounding 4 million views were recorded for the videos that year, and opinion of the Focus rose by 77%. The consideration rate rose too, to a solid 66%.

5. Follow your users’ lead when it comes to social media platforms

After Doug was so well received, Ford tried another web-based video campaign the following year, named ‘Escape My Life’. This time, a female production assistant was given a Ford Escape, which came with an irritating product specialist who followed and commented on her every move. The series of eight videos were distributed not through Facebook this time, but through YouTube, as research showed that the desired target market were turning more and more to these media to watch videos online. The annoying product specialist, who, we found out, was called ‘Barry’, was also the star of a parodied Tumblr blog, in which he avidly followed the social media trends of the day by creating memes and discussed zombie attacks. Again, the creation of characters who the public could not only identify with, but who also used the same social media platforms as them was a good move on Ford’s part. The campaign scored 1.5 million hits, the majority of which came via Tumblr.